Tie Lean, Six Sigma strategies to plant worker's knowledge

While manufacturing improvement strategists have their supporters, researchers who look at the implementation of such programs understand that engaging workers at the plant floor level is crucial to success. “Most people on the plant floor are not used to being asked questions, but it is a key leap of the continuous improvement program,” said Ralph Rio, research director for ARC Adv...

03/01/2007


While manufacturing improvement strategists have their supporters, researchers who look at the implementation of such programs understand that engaging workers at the plant floor level is crucial to success.

“Most people on the plant floor are not used to being asked questions, but it is a key leap of the continuous improvement program,” said Ralph Rio, research director for ARC Advisory Group at their Collaborative Manufacturing Strategies Forum in Orlando Feb. 14. “It takes two years to get through the cultural change, but if you have the first mover advantage, you can exert pressure on your competitors.”

In those two years, Rio noted, starting with a Lean strategy and augmenting it with Six Sigma allows for the plant to measure the process and people involved in manufacturing. “Six Sigma aligns the organization vertically, while Lean is horizontal,” Rio said. “In some organizations, there's some conflict, but that's usually empire building.”

“The success of the strategy is driven by both a top-down management initiative and the full engagement of the plant manager,” said Paul Husby, vice-president of supply-chain services and operations for 3M.

“The value of a top-down program is essential,” Husby said. “The first two hours of a plant manager's day is spent on the shop floor. This is a huge cultural change. The plant manager either leads this effort or it won't work.”

Husby related that one plant production manager at a 3M facility said, “Since this started, I know so much more about the day-to-day details of what's going on in my area.”

Husby said the integration of the Lean system and the data available from MES systems is another important factor in driving change through Lean and Six Sigma. “Stability controls the speed of improvement. MES is a vital part of this stability,” Husby said. “Your MES provides a lot of data and monitors defect detection. That's a key part of how you improve stability.”

A continuous improvement program is a major part of what successful manufacturers need to remain competitive. Rio noted that the attention to continuous improvement also can keep other plant floor pressures at bay. “Cost is a variable,” Rio said. “Continuous improvement is about the only thing you can control.”

Plant Engineering magazine was a media sponsor of the ARC Advisory Group forum. Details on the event can be found at www.arcweb.com .





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